The Site Leading a Movement to Make Travel Culture Inclusive
On She Goes is an online site and community leading a movement. A digital travel platform that helps women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often, On She Goes features everything from practical packing advice to powerful personal essays. Today, we're talking with their core team about diversity in the travel industry, the importance of their work, and some tips to travel better. They're an inspiring group intent on creating a new, inclusive travel narrative while building an awesome community to boot. Needless to say, we're more than a little thrilled to have them here discussing their work.
What was the inspiration behind starting On She Goes? How did it begin?
On She Goes came out of an opportunity that our team saw to address and change the lack- and misrepresentation- of women of color in the travel media industry.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from the stories you’ve published so far?
We’ve learned that women of color are doing some incredible and interesting things around the world, and we’ve only tapped the surface of showcasing them with the work we’ve done. There are so many different perspectives to share, and we’re one of the few resources that are covering their stories in this way. We really love seeing how our perspectives are so different yet share commonalities at the same time. The stories featured on On She Goes show us that we're not a monolith and each of our unique experiences are worth sharing when it comes to the world of travel. It's inspiring to see ourselves reflected in these pieces about travel when our experiences have felt like they've been ignored for so long.
Explain your motto “We belong here.” Where did this sentiment come from?
It's an affirmation meant to inspire our readers and contributors to know that they should feel comfortable exploring new destinations. It’s also a sentiment similar to having a seat at the table; Women of color belong in every space we choose to occupy, even if you are in a destination where no one looks like you.
Every person’s travel experience is different, but what are some of the most common problems women of color can face while traveling?
You’re right, every woman experiences their travels in a different way, and we want to preface that this in no way speaks for each one of them. What we’ve heard most is feeling unsafe or insecure in surroundings based on societal perceptions about non-white people, being mistaken for sex workers just by virtue of being in another country, and not feeling be able to find safe spaces for POC abroad.
Your mission statement is to “help women of color travel more confidently, more adventurously, and more often.” Why is “more often” important?
The more often distinction is important because we believe that the more we (as women of color) travel, the more we can share those experiences on our platform and raise our collective comfort level; seeing ourselves reflected in the travel space shows us the possibilities for more.
What are your top three countries to visit this year?
- Rebecca Russell: The United Kingdom, Japan, and Bali
- Serita Wesley: [More of] the USA, Egypt, and Amsterdam
- Meron Medhanie: Columbia, Bali and Costa Rica!
- Amy Lam: On my grad school budget, I'm hoping I can make it to Japan this year!
Your best country for travelers on a budget?
It’s definitely possible to visit and enjoy almost any country with a fixed budget in mind, you just have to be creative! You can travel during their tourism off-season, stay in hostels, or in a hotel with meals included with accommodations, to cut down on costs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask locals what they like to do- they most likely don’t spend a lot of money everyday, and you can benefit from their insider knowledge of the country you’re visiting for the best places to visit and things to see on the cheap.
What are some of your best tips for traveling more confidently?
Amy: Research, research, research! A flexible itinerary makes it so that I have specific destinations in mind and I have room to change my mind too. A good spreadsheet with info about what cities I'm visiting and where I'm staying not only helps me to stay organize, but I share it with loved ones back home so they'll know where I am too.
What has been the response to On She Goes, both in communities of color and the overall travel community?
We had some early detractors who questioned not only our intent, but our authenticity- we’ve even been asked if women of color are actually behind the project, which we can assure you we are. But overall, the reception to On She Goes has been beyond great; we’re currently building community in a big way, and we’ve gotten some great press coverage and shout outs from travel media, the writing community, and other women of color who we admire. We feel vindicated, and equally aware of the important task that we now have to continue doing this work.
Why do you think it’s so important to address and discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in the travel space?
Recently, the National Geographic finally admitted that their work has played a role in perpetuating racism, white supremacy, and colonialism. Finally, after 130 years in publication. Travel culture in the US has been overwhelming white, and it's presented with a white gaze that exoticizes other cultures in harmful and exploitive ways. Nothing changes if we don't acknowledge the issues in the first place, and On She Goes is a first step in addressing the issues with travel culture.
What is the ultimate goal for On She Goes? Why do this?
Rebecca: Our goals are two-fold: one, to get as many women of color traveling as possible, by two, creating an environment where we can travel, absent the fears or insecurities of not fitting in, or not knowing how to navigate a world that we are as entitled to as our white counterparts.
Check out On She Goes and their amazing stories here